Japanese exchange students adapt to the Chico lifestyle

Chikako Hirabayashi, a senior international liberal arts major, has been transitioning into the Chico lifestyle since moving here from Japan. Photo courtesy of Chikako Hirabayashi.

Imagine moving across the globe and being placed in an environment that is completely strange and foreign. Walking around an unfamiliar campus where the people and culture are different from everything you are used to can be a difficult feat. Every year, exchange students come from Japan to attend Chico State and experience a complete lifestyle change.


Hiroyoshi Ogawa, a senior marketing major, enjoys fashion and notices that the way students carry themselves on campus is completely the opposite from Japan.

“Chico clothing style is more casual than Japan,” he says.

Ogawa said the weather here is hotter than what he is used to and perhaps that is why everyone is always dressed casually here. This is something completely new for him because in Japan, students and teachers dress nicer and more professionally by wearing slacks and a long-sleeve shirt every day no matter what the weather is.

Chikako Hirabayashi, a senior international liberal arts major, also notices all the distinctive clothing that students in the U.S. wear.

Everyone at Chico State dresses the same way, but in Japan people are creative and show who they are through their personal style, Hirabayashi said. Looking back on how people dress at home, students here are not as decorative as Japanese people.


Hirabayashi said that in Japan, she would listen to the soundtracks of musicals, anime and even rock music.

“But (in America), I like to listen to Maroon 5 and One Republic,” she said.

Most students on campus aren’t listening to musical soundtracks or anime, so alternative rock is where she’s found comfort, she said.

Ogawa’s favorite music to listen to from home is J-pop. J-pop is a popular musical genre in Japanese culture that combines traditional Japanese music with pop and rock music.

“I like the aspect that feels like stupid or silly,” he says.

He enjoys the mood of the music and how happy it makes him when he listens to it, Ogawa said. He has also found a passion for hip-hop since he discovered Macklemore in Chico.

Campus Life

Aside from the fashion and music choices of students, there is also the way that they go about their school day.

Even small things like the pace that people walk and their attitude is different from home, they said. Chico State students don’t ever want to be alone, whether it’s eating lunch or going shopping.

“American students seem too busy,” Hirabayashi said.

Students are always in a rush to leave and get to another class, she said. This is something that has stood out and confused her.

“I like to take my time by myself – even lunchtime – but American students like to get together,” she says.

Ogawa said he needs alone time and that is something he appreciates when he is shopping.

The lifestyle changes one goes through when going to school across the country can be monumental. The music people walk through the halls listening to, the staple outfit fellow classmates have at their school and the way others spend their time on campus as a whole are all major transitions to go through as an exchange student.

Lauren Steele can be reached at [email protected] or @thrasherxlauren on Twitter.